If you are involved in the probate of someone’s estate, you may be the executor named in their will, a legal heir, or a party named in the decedent’s will. Although probate is ideally handled without conflict, there are several important reasons why a dispute can occur. These are often the same reasons why it’s important to secure a probate litigation attorney as soon as possible.
1. Will Contests
If the validity of a last will and testament is in doubt, a will contest can arise. This is a legal challenge to the will’s validity, and there are a number of reasons why someone may bring such a claim forward.
Some of those reasons include the following:
- Concerns about the decedent’s mental capacity when writing or signing the will.
- Suspicion of coercion or undue influence over the decedent affected the creation of the will.
- The will wasn’t signed according to the state’s legal procedures.
- The will contains provisions that clearly favor a specific person.
- The will isn’t the most recent one available.
- The will disinherits a specific child.
- The will unevenly divides the estate among children.
- The will provides gifts to unexpected people or entities.
2. Guardianship Matters
When someone leaves behind minor children, whom they selected to care for their children is very important. Sometimes a will isn’t changed to reflect changes in an individual that would make them an inappropriate legal guardian. Relatives who disagree with the decedent’s choice for a legal guardian of their children can hire a probate litigation attorney to help them dispute this provision of the will.
Challenges to legal guardianship can also be brought if the decedent left behind an adult with special needs, such as a parent or adult child. If there are concerns about this person’s care under the legal guardianship of the proposed guardian, the decedent’s choice can be contested and a new guardian may be assigned.
3. Estate Administration Affairs
The estate administration process often doesn’t involve litigation, but it can – especially when there are concerns about how property belonging to the estate is handled. Both executors tasked with administration and legal heirs can find themselves in need of legal assistance during this delicate process.
4. There Was a Second (or Third, etc.) Marriage
Probate can be complicated enough when the decedent’s will accounts for just one family. If they were married more than once during their life, however, their will might account for multiple families and blended family members.
Under normal circumstances, an ex-spouse is barred from inheriting property if the divorce is finalized. This can change, however, if they are explicitly included in a will that wasn’t updated before the decedent’s death. Matters can become even more complicated if inheritances for the decedent’s biological children and stepchildren are disputed.
5. Trust Management Disputes
Although one of the benefits of a trust is that it can avoid probate court, this may not be the case if a beneficiary wishes to dispute the trust. For example, a beneficiary might take issue with how the trust is worded and litigation may be needed to amend the trust or affirm the meaning of provisions in dispute.
Beneficiaries can also sue to remove a trustee – or even terminate the trust – if there is evidence that the trust’s property is being mismanaged or those with a fiduciary duty are acting against that duty.
Although probate doesn’t have to involve litigation, there are many different reasons why it could occur. Whether you need to take legal action as an heir or beneficiary or respond to it as an executor, a probate litigation attorney can help.
See why so many trust the representation of our attorney at Bundren Law Firm when you schedule a consultation with us today.